Crane Orchards gears up for a fun fall season in Fennville

FENNVILLE – As summer activities draw to a close and August turns into September, the beginning of the fall festivities is underway at Crane Orchards in Fennville.

After:Michigan farmers predict impressive apple harvest, but don’t expect prices to drop

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Whether it’s hay wagon rides, the cow train or the corn maze, there’s something for everyone at Crane’s. And it’s important not to forget the jewel in the crown: apples.

Rob Crane, along with his wife Maria and sons Trevor and Taylor, own Crane Orchards. Crane said there’s plenty to be excited about the apples on the farm — and Michigan’s statewide apple harvest.

For <a class=apple growers across the state, it’s a fine line between getting the right amount of rain and apples getting too big or too small.”/>

“Michigan is very well positioned with a big crop this year,” he said. “This is truly the biggest harvest the state has ever encountered, possibly. There have been many new trees planted in the north and overall estimates are in the range of 28 million bushels.

By comparison, the USDA said that in 2021 Michigan farmers harvested 15.6 million bushels of apples, down from the state’s average annual harvest size – which is closer of 24 million bushels. This total includes 14.9 million apple trees in commercial production on 775 family farms.

For apple growers across the state, it’s a fine line between getting the right amount of rain and apples getting too big or too small.

But at Crane Orchards, they’ve found the sweet spot this year.

“For us here, we have a very nice crop and the size is great,” Crane said. “We’ve been pretty dry here in the Fennville area. The rains mostly passed south and north of us for a good six weeks. We had good rain here 10 days ago and we really needed it. This rain really helped calibrate our apples.

Crane said the farm’s pick-your-own offerings kicked off Labor Day weekend with three varieties: Gala, Macintosh and Golden Supreme. In total, the farm offers 27 varieties, and more will be available for pick-your-own as the season continues.

The farm started pick-your-own for Blondee and Sommerset on Saturday September 10th. The farm’s famous Honeycrisp starts on Wednesday, September 14.

“We have a very nice crop of Honeycrisp apples,” Crane said. “We really put our heart and soul into this apple because it takes a lot of work. … We’ve worked really hard to maintain the calcium sprays, because calcium helps keep us away from a bitter core and a thin-skinned apple.

Crane Orchard's pick-your-own offerings kicked off Labor Day weekend with three varieties: Gala, Macintosh and Golden Supreme.  In total, the farm offers 27 varieties, and more will be available for pick-your-own as the season continues.

Crane said he and his sons applied clay-based sunscreen to the apples to prevent them from getting sunburned.

“We want to make people aware of (this),” Crane said, adding that sunscreen would go away. “It’s there to protect the apple. For us, it’s what we do at pick your own – education and entertainment.”

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Apples are available for pick-your-own daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 6054 124th Ave., rain or shine. But customers will also find other activities at Crane this fall.

The cart rides start towards the end of September and offer a visit to the farm. Orchards, woodlands and the child-friendly cow train ensure visitors will have plenty to explore.

The farm’s 20-acre corn maze is already open, operating the same hours as pick-your-own and featuring another unique design — this time a tribute to local peach farmers.

Apples are available daily for pick-your-own at Crane Orchards in Fennville from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., rain or shine.

“Our corn maze is really a 20-acre billboard if we want it and can be national news if we do the right thing,” Crane said. “We did breast cancer awareness, we did Wes Leonard’s heart team, zoo stuff and – two years ago – we honored our health care workers.”

For Crane, no matter how many farm activities, it all comes down to apples.

“I really think the quality of our apples is very good this year,” he said. “It can vary from year to year. In general, we are doing well and in other years we are doing very well. Nature has done us good this year.

To learn more, visit craneorchards.com.

— Austin Metz is a former Holland Sentinel reporter.

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